Karen Swindler
Karen Swindler
September 2, 1965  -  July 22, 2018


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Lee Swindler will be matching each personal donation and pledge dollar for dollar. For more information contact Elizabeth Sailer at the SD Mines Foundation. 

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For those that knew her, Karen was regarded as driven, enthusiastic, caring, and talented. She was hardworking and humble. Karen saw herself as a farm kid that had an opportunity to build a life and career around her engineering education. She believed in the power of giving: time, talent and treasure. After retiring, she dedicated herself to improving the lives of others, including vigorously pursuing initiatives to give ambitious kids like herself an opportunity at SDSM&T.

Maybe she supported your career, or introduced you to the right person when you needed it, or guided you to be a better parent, or inspired you to have a stronger faith or gave you courage to do something big. If you are one of the many people whose life has been impacted by Karen's influence, consider donating to give others a chance. 

What is an endowment?
Endowed scholarship funds exist in perpetuity. This means the funds raised for the Karen Swindler Memorial Scholarship will live on forever. The money raised creates the endowment principal which is invested and annual scholarship award(s) are based on the principal balance.

Have you considered a multi-year commitment?
You may choose to make a multi-year commitment to support the Karen Swindler Memorial Scholarship. You have the option to make monthly, quarterly or annual gifts for a defined period of time or it can continue until you tell us to stop.

Do you work for a matching gift company?
You can double or even triple the impact of your gift by using your company's matching gift program. The Foundation Tax ID is 46-6011771. Visit with your human resources department to find out how to take advantage of one of your most important benefits. Then simply include your company's matching gift form along with your tax-deductible donation.

Karen Swindler | September 2, 1965 - July 22, 2018

Karen was born on September 2, 1965 in Redfield, SD to Bernard and Ruth (Johnson) Nelson. She grew up the youngest of 11 on a family farm in Redfield. She graduated from Redfield High School in 1983 and from SDSM&T as a chemical engineer in 1988. She married Lee Swindler from Mott, ND, on May 14, 1984. To this union one daughter and three sons were born.

She began her career in 1988 with Exxon Chemicals in Baytown, TX. Starting in 1991 she worked for LyondellBasell in Clinton, IA. In 1999, she transferred back to Houston to become site manager of LyondellBasell's largest facility. She continued to move into roles of increasing responsibility in manufacturing, health, safety and environmental (HSE), supply chain and strategic planning. In her last role she served as a senior vice president of manufacturing for LyondellBasell, the third largest chemical company in the world. Throughout her career she received multiple awards and recognitions including Forbes' top woman in manufacturing.

She retired in 2014 to dedicate her life to helping others throughout the world through multiple missions and charities. She was instrumental in installing clean water systems, implementing sustainable agriculture, and helping orphanages across Lation America. She served on multiple boards and committees to make our world a better place. She hated to see any suffering or injustice.

Karen was also very active with the SDSM&T Alumni Association and University. She was able to use her energy, talents and momentum from her career and focus it on campus in a variety of ways. She was the driving force behind the creation of the Alumni Association's most recent strategic plan and served as the board president. Karen had a great passion for connecting and helping people. She was always encouraging potential students to carefully consider SD Mines and all it has to offer. She acted as a mentor for many students, recent graduates, and fellow Alumni Association board members, helping them with career advice and making connections with others in industry. Karen worked hard to collaborate with multiple groups on campus to find a path to success.

Karen was an ordained deacon and elder at Clear Lake Presbyterian Church and was a passionate servant of God. She was a very enthusiastic, caring, loving, outgoing, supportive and spiritual person who had hugs for everyone and a contagious smile and laughter. She was a devoted mother and always there for her children despite her busy schedule and challenging career. She was the lover of any baby, child, or animal in need. She was a grandma to every child and finally became a grandmother to her own granddaughter in 2017. Karen's 2nd granddaughter was born 20 days after her passing.

Karen is survived by her husband, Lee; daughter Kara (Zach) Zegan [Prague, Czech Republic]; sons Dustin (Rebecca) Swindler [Laporte, CO], Brandon Swindler [US Navy], and Nelson Swindler [Lincoln, NE]; granddaughters Elliette and newborn Laelynn Zegan [Prague, Czech Republic]; sisters Linda Nelson [Fayetteville, AR], Debbie (Dennis) Harmening [Redfield, SD], Susan (Marty) Warns [Madison, SD], and Mary (Bruno) Himmler [Inver Grove Heights, MN]; brothers Wilbur (Jannelle) Nelson, David Nelson, Donald Nelson [all of Redfield, SD] and Steven (Donita) Nelson [Rapid City, SD]; three aunts, many nephews, nieces, and cousins. Karen also left behind many special friends and coworkers all over the world.

Karen was preceded in death by her parents, Bernard and Ruth Nelson; brothers Richard and James Nelson; nephews Jon Nelson and Daniel Harmening; niece DeAnn Harmening; maternal and paternal grandparents; and mother-in-law, Greta Swindler.